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In this court case, five Malaysian youths from Sarawak — all aged 18 to 20 — had filed the lawsuit to seek the immediate enforcement of a constitutional amendment in 2019, which had lowered the minimum voting age in Malaysia from the initial 21 to the new age of 18. — Picture by Farhan Najib
In this court case, five Malaysian youths from Sarawak — all aged 18 to 20 — had filed the lawsuit to seek the immediate enforcement of a constitutional amendment in 2019, which had lowered the minimum voting age in Malaysia from the initial 21 to the new age of 18. — Picture by Farhan Najib

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 — The Malaysian government has not filed any appeal against the High Court’s order for it to implement Undi18 by the end of December 2021, lawyers have confirmed.

Since the Malaysian government and the Election Commission (EC) did not appeal to the Court of Appeal within the usual 30-day timeline, this would mean that the High Court decision — which ordered the government to enable Malaysian youths aged 18 to 20 to be registered voters by December 31, 2021 — is still valid.

In this court case, five Malaysian youths from Sarawak — all aged 18 to 20 — had filed the lawsuit to seek the immediate enforcement of a constitutional amendment in 2019, which had lowered the minimum voting age in Malaysia from the initial 21 to the new age of 18.

Although the Federal Constitution had been amended in 2019, Malaysians aged 18 to 20 were still unable to become registered voters, as the EC and government officials had repeatedly said that this would be implemented by July 2021.

The EC abruptly in March 2021 announced that the earliest it could implement both Undi18 and automatic voter registration (AVR) was after September 2022, instead of the earlier promised date of July 2021.

This led to the five youths in May suing Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in his then capacity as prime minister, the Malaysian government, and the EC. 

The five Malaysian youths — who are also part of the Undi18 movement that successfully advocated for the lower voting age and include four Sarawak-born youths — who filed this lawsuit are Ivan Alexander Ong, Viviyen Desi Geoge, Tiffany Wee Ke Ying, Chang Swee Ern and Sharifah Maheerah Syed Haizir. 

On September 3, the High Court in Kuching, Sarawak gave a court order quashing the government’s and EC’s decision to defer the implementation of the constitutional amendment — which includes Undi18 and AVR — to after September 2022.

High Court judicial commissioner Alexander Siew How Wai also gave a court order that required all necessary steps to be taken for the constitutional amendment to come into operation as soon as possible and by December 31, 2021.

Simon Siah (left) and Clarice Chan are the lawyers representing the five Malaysian youths in their lawsuit against the prime minister, the Malaysian government and Election Commission. ― Picture courtesy of Simon Siah and Clarice Chan
Simon Siah (left) and Clarice Chan are the lawyers representing the five Malaysian youths in their lawsuit against the prime minister, the Malaysian government and Election Commission. ― Picture courtesy of Simon Siah and Clarice Chan

Simon Siah, one of the lawyers for the five Malaysian youths, today confirmed to Malay Mail that no appeal has been filed.

“The last day for the AG to file the appeal is on the 4th of October 2021. However, up until today we have not received any notice of appeal. Thus, the decision of the High Court for the Undi18 and AVR to be implemented by the 31st of December 2021 will stand,” he said when contacted today.

“I believe this is the right move by the federal government not to appeal and to put in place the mechanism to implement AVR and Undi18. The young people are eager to cast their votes and thanks to the brave young applicants from Sarawak, we will see this done sooner rather than later. 

“Hopefully the Election Commission can get it done before the Sarawak state election which we are all looking forward to,” he added.

When contacted, the Attorney General’s Chambers’ senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan also confirmed to Malay Mail that the respondents had not filed an appeal against the High Court’s decision.

(From left) Sharifah Maheerah Syed Haizir, Ivan Alexander Ong, Tiffany Wee Ke Ying, Viviyen Desi Geoge, and Chang Swee Ern are the five Malaysian youths aged 18 to 20 who filed a lawsuit in Sarawak to challenge the government's decision to delay implement
(From left) Sharifah Maheerah Syed Haizir, Ivan Alexander Ong, Tiffany Wee Ke Ying, Viviyen Desi Geoge, and Chang Swee Ern are the five Malaysian youths aged 18 to 20 who filed a lawsuit in Sarawak to challenge the government’s decision to delay implement

Viviyen Desi, one of the five youths in the lawsuit, expressed her excitement and hope for the future following the government’s decision against appealing the High Court decision.

“I am extremely excited that the government has decided not to appeal. Young people like me finally have a say in choosing our leaders. 

“I hope the political parties will come out with a manifesto catering for young people like us who will have to brave the working world in the next five years. We look forward to the future with great hope,” the Sarawakian youth who is a Melanau-Bidayuh told Malay Mail.

Qyira Yusri, co-founder of the Undi18 movement, described the High Court in Kuching’s decision as a “landmark and historic” ruling, and said she was glad that the government has decided to not appeal this court decision.

“The right to vote is a fundamental human right and we need to ensure that Malaysians everywhere will be able to access and vote during elections. 

“Automatic voting registration and Undi18 will be a game changer in Malaysian politics, and I look forward to Malaysian youth shaking up the scene in upcoming elections,” she told Malay Mail when contacted.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. ― Bernama pic
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. ― Bernama pic

Previously, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had on September 7 said there was no plan to appeal against the High Court’s decision and that he had asked the EC to give effect to the court ruling, and affirmed this on September 21 in the Dewan Rakyat when saying that the Cabinet had decided on September 10 to not file an appeal.

On September 29, which is just a week ago, the EC had announced that Malaysians aged 18 and above — who are not yet registered as voters — would be able to check and confirm their records before being automatically registered as voters, and that the online and physical display of such information for these 5.8 million potential voters would be made between October 1 to October 31 this year.

This process would effectively pave the way for these unregistered voters — aged 18 and above — to be subsequently registered with accurate personal information and the correct voting location. (If you have yet to be a registered voter, check out the EC’s website here, as well as its frequently-asked-questions here. )

Sarawak is currently under a state-wide Emergency from August 2, 2021 to February 2, 2022, which meant that the Sarawak state assembly’s dissolution upon the end of its five-year term had been suspended. The Sarawak state assembly’s dissolution would have led to the Sarawak state elections.

The Sarawak state election is required to be held within 60 days from the revocation of the Emergency ordinance for Sarawak.

One of the youths in the lawsuit, Ong, had previously said the High Court’s decision would enable up to 135,000 Sarawakian youths to vote in the Sarawak state elections when the Emergency in Sarawak ends.

On March 25, 2021, the EC had said that its records showed that there are currently 1.2 million Malaysians aged 18 to 20.

Separately, 18 Malaysian youths also aged 18 to 20 and also part of the Undi18 movement had on April 2 filed a similar lawsuit in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, and had on June 17 won leave for judicial review. The High Court in Kuala Lumpur is scheduled to deliver its decision on the youths’ judicial review on October 21.

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